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This Week's Film Reviews (Apr 6, 2018)

05 Apr 2018

Best Film playing is ISLE OF DOGS that opened last week.

 

BEST FILMS PLAYING:

 

 

Best Animation:

ISLE OF DOGS

 

Best Action:

RED SPARROW

 

Best Documentary:
The China Hustle

 

Best Foreign: 

C’EST LA VIE (LE SENS de la FETE)

 

Best Period:

PHANTOM THREAD

 

Best Sci-fi

THE SHAPE OF WATER

 

Best Drama:

THOROUGHBREDS

 

 

 

FILM REVIEWS:

 

BLOCKERS (USA 2018) **

Directed by Kay Cannon 

The title and film poster are a reference to cock blocking (the rooster icon is put on top of the film title BLOCKERS in the poster).  But the film is just entitled in one word - BLOCKERS.   I first heard of the term cock blocker in London.  The term is referred to as the guy who stands for the one to prevent a good looking gay guy from being picked up by a not-so-good looking guy.  The cock blocker usually says he is the good looking guy’s boyfriend or partner.  In the film the blockers are the parents (2 fathers and a mother) trying their best to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on Prom night.

Despite what one might think is a premise for lots of high-jinx comedy, the film is surprisingly short of laugh-out loud laughs.  Director Kay Cannon wrote all three of the PITCH PERFECT films and as one can expect, a lot of the humour is physical.  The funniest of these is the ass chugging contest - but the idea is funnier than its execution.

A lot of jokes fall flat.  The running joke of bulked up Mitchell (Michael Cena) getting teary-eyed not only does not cut it, but used way too often.  The FAST AND FURIOUS joke is pitiful.  Adult parents are treated as bumbling idiots while the teens are supposed to be the wise ones who make all the right decisions and have the correct emotions.

But despite the relatively innocent title, the film turns out quite raunchy since it is co-produced by Masters of Mischief, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.  But more raunchy than funny, unfortunately.  Example are the naked sex scenes and the raunchy sex experiments of Mitchell’s ex and new boyfriend that are not that funny, not even the squeezing of Hunter’s balls.   More laughs are generated from the sly comments and smirk of one of the daughter’s dates, Connor (newcomer Miles Robbins). The film also suffers from having to go through the same incident three times, since there are three daughters and three parents.  Mitchell finds Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) having sex and has to deal with it.  Then, the audience has through a similar tiresome routine with the other two.

The tired script also goes through cliched territory of mother missing the daughter going away for college more than daughter missing the mother. 

Of the three parents, Hunter, played by Ike Barinholtz (he was the loud laughing clown in NEIGHBOURS 2) comes through as the funniest.  Reason is that he is the wildest card in the pack and given more free reign to do crazy things.  Leslie Mann could have been funnier, but not given much to do but to complain and worry.

The film most boring parts are the ones with the three daughters bonding.  One also wonders why their dates at the prom did not abandon them as they talk to each other more than to their dates.  There are a few, genuinely funny moments like the Korean student’s break dancing that always ends in disaster.  But these are few and far between.

The film aims at being politically current by having mixed couples like Mitchell and his wife and ex-wife with one of the daughters turning out to be gay.  But the comedy disappoints.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMDVa4yoCWw

 

FINAL PORTRAIT (USA/UK 2017) ***
Directed by Stanley Tucci

Actor Stanley Tucci has stepped into the director’s chair only a few times.  As in his previous features, whether as an actor or director, he is recognizable for his dead seriousness in he treats his subjects though his seriousness is often tainted with a wry sense of humour.  FINAL PORTRAIT is the story of the touching and offbeat friendship between American writer and art-lover James Lord (Armie Hammer) and Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) with humour emancipating from the subtle relationship as well as Rush’s comical portrayal of the questionable genius.

The story unfolds through Lord’s eyes and revealing unique insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and sometimes the chaos of the artistic process.   Set in 1964, while on a short trip to Paris, Lord is asked by his friend, Giacometti, to sit for a portrait.  Lord is promised that the sitting will be a short one, maybe two hours or maybe an afternoon.  9 days later….

Lord finally wonders “how much longer can it go on like this?”, as he keeps having to postpone his flight many times back to New York.  The funny thing is that when the portrait is almost finished, Giacimetti will take his large brush with grey paint and paint over the portrait therefore starting again, almost as if from scratch.  This process has been repeated so many times that Lord can predict when the process will occur again.  He finally finishes up the portrait by stopping Giacimetti from restarting again with the big brush and the grey paint.

Tucci is more interested in Giancimetti than in Lord.  Nothing is much known of Lord, of his living in New York or his family.  One scene in a cafe establishes that he is gay and that is about it.  Giacimetti’s life is outlined, however, in greater detail.  The audience sees the troubled relationship with him and his wife, as well as his relationship, a much happier one with his putain, Carolyn.

FINAL PORTRAIT will unfortunately be inevitably compared to the minor masterpiece, the 4-hour long LE BELLE NOISEUSE directed by Jacques Rivette about the relationship between a painter and his model.  FINAL PORTRAIT can nowhere be compared to this film - in fact nor can any film for that matter, so one can understand director Tucci going the easier comedic route.

Rush is pretty good as the temperamental artist while Hammer reprises another gay role after CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.  The film has some nice shots of Hammer in his skimpy swimming trunks.  Rush is an Academy Award Best Actor Winner for his role in the film SHINE.  But he is currently the latest victim under scrutiny for inappropriate (sexual) behaviour.

FINAL PORTRAIT was filmed entirely in France.  The American speaks both English and French while Rush gets away of being totally believable as a Frenchman fluent in French.  The film is shot in both English and French with English subtitles.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3iFt_lOxIw\

 

 

 

PANDAS (USA 2018) ****
Directed by David Douglas and Drew Fellman

Warner Bros. Studios and IMAX take over Disney Studios duties by providing audiences with a spectacular documentary, complete with story about the most adorable animal in the world - PANDAS.

PANDAS is an IMAX original movie.  PANDAS is not a film comprised of short clips but one that contains a story with a solid narrative set in both Sichuan, China and New England, United States.

The story revolves around a Panda called Qian Qian.  She is the star.  And the audience will surely love her.  When the film opens, the narrative (voiced by Kristen Bell) informs of the diminishing number of pandas in the wild - less than two thousand.  Owing to humans destroying their natural habitat, they are forced further and further higher up the mountains in northern China.  It would have been miraculous if the film could have captured shots of wild Pandas.  The film then rests on Pandas born in captivity.  Qian Qian is one such panda.  The goal is to prepare captive born pandas for survival in the wild and let them increase the Panda population.  Qian Qian is chosen.  The film follows her training from cub to young adult.  The heroes of the story are the human being Panda experts Wen Lei Bu, Jacob Owens and Rong Hou who are involved in the training.   They also enlist the help of a New England black bear expert, Ben Kilham to train Qian Qian.  When Qian Qian is released into the wild in the mountains of Sichuan, a collar is put around her neck to monitor her movements and to know when she might be in distress.  This is the Panda story.

The film contains many candid shots.  The best of these is the one in the panda facility where human beings clad in medical outfit feed the 4 baby panda cubs with baby milk bottles.  One other is the panda star, Qian Qian injured up stuck in the tree.

Here are a few reasons to see PANDAS:

the pandas especially the baby cubs are cute beyond comparison and this is the only way to be able to see them play and up close.  (I went to the Toronto Zoo to see the pandas and the new cub.  The public was not allowed to see the cub as it was still too fragile  and the adult panda was too far in the pen to be observed clearly.)

the film is in glorious IMAX

the film provides a good solid story of pandas

the film is a feel good movie celebrating the bond between animals and human beings.  It is inspirational to see human beings devote themselves for the good of the animal Kingdom

a good perspective is given on the life of Pandas

stunning shots of the natural beauty and landscape of northern China

The doc is quite short with a running time of 50 minutes or so.  It is a question of quality vs. quantity.  PANDAS come highly recommended!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3eaGCk2Acs

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